In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:1-3

Christmas is so much more than a babe in a manger. Christmas is a cosmic event.

According to Charles W. Petit, scientists confront a ‘fine-tuning problem,’ as they examine the heavens. “The universe appears marvelously constructed to produce stars, planets, and life. Scientists have calculated that if the force binding atomic nuclei were just 0.5 percent different, the processes that forge atoms inside stars would have failed to produce either carbon or oxygen—key ingredients to life. If gravity were only slightly stronger or weaker, stars like our sun could not have formed. Yet physicists see no reason why the constants of nature are set just so.”

Contemporary astronomer Allan Sandage, Edwin Hubble’s successor at Mt. Wilson and Mt. Palomar observatories… told the New York Times, “I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God, to me … is the explanation of the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.” On another occasion, Sandage said, “If God did not exist; science would have to invent Him to explain what it is discovering at its core.”

The truth is that our ability to exist on this planet is due to the fact that the universe is balanced on a razor’s edge in order to facilitate life.

The earth-shaking thing that the Apostle John tells us in the first few verses of his gospel is that ho kosmos (Greek for the orderly universe that scientists observe) was made through ho Logos, the Word – Christ. He is the agent of creation. He’s the one who “hung the stars.”

Paul elaborates on this in Colossians 1:16-17. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

John is clearly stating that the ‘Logos’ – the ultimate spiritual force behind the universe – is responsible for all that is visible. The mud you squish between your toes, the cold morning air rushing at you as you go out to crank the car, the water running through your hair as you shower all were made by Him. The fact that you and I exist in an incredibly complex yet orderly universe designed to sustain life is because this same Logos – who existed before the universe began – made it so.

He is also clearly stating that the “Logos,” the ultimate spiritual force behind the universe, is responsible for all of the invisible forces, not only the physics but the spiritual forces, at work in the universe. “Through him all things were made…”, or in Paul’s words, “whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.”

Physicists make a study of the physical laws, the foundational physical forces that make the universe, or universes, tick. They will tell you that even with all the things they’ve been able to discover they don’t know the tiniest tenth of all of the facts. They know even less about the spiritual world. The only reliable source of information on the invisible world, the spiritual world, is in the Bible.

The point is that the Logos created everything we can see and everything that we cannot see. He fashioned it, he sustains it, he owns it, he rules it, nothing happens in it apart from his knowledge, and nothing can change in it apart from his permission.

That’s the identity of the babe in the manger. So if you will bear with a little cheesy re-write of a favorite song:
When you when you get up Christmas morning,
with your family all around,
remember it was Christ who hung
the star on the highest bough.
And have yourself a cosmic little Christmas, now.


Recent events bring to light how unexpectedly, how quickly disaster can strike. I’ve watched with sadness as happenings related to Ferguson, Missouri and the Garner case amplified the bitterness and strife between races. The tragedy that is Syria also comes to mind, along with the Ebola epidemic in Africa. As Phillip Yancey poignantly asked: Where is God when it Hurts? (That book is worth your while by the way).
The Bible is clear about the ultimate source of suffering – (See Genesis 3: 17-19; Romans. 8:18, 22-25). We live in cursed bodies, with cursed psyches (souls) and cursed spirits, on a cursed planet under a cursed system in a cursed time. Men will commit crimes against one another. Accidents will burn houses down. Even the earth will oppose us and challenge us at every turn until we return to dust.
The Bible is clear about all of that. We should therefore adjust our expectations accordingly. We may not like the answer. But the question is not whether we like it. Rather, does it make sense of reality, as we know it? I believe that it does.
But all of that is abstract. Suffering is very personal stuff. I want to spend the rest of this article being personal.

God’s ultimate answer to suffering is the Cross of Christ.

Thirty-eight years ago we lost my dad in a plane crash. I was not quite sixteen, and traumatized by it. Almost thirteen years ago I accompanied my friend Phil Ramsey to the spot where his eighteen-year-old son Joseph had just died in a totally inexplicable car wreck. My heart wrenched as I watched my friend implode in grief. I spent the next three months so angry with God that I could not speak to him except on a professional basis. How could he let that happen?! Two years later I buried one of my best friends, Steve Kotter, victim of a car hitting his bicycle. Two years after that I answered the phone late one night to the wails of a grieving friend. I then buried her twenty-year old son, a drowning victim. In August 2010 I buried my brother, dead of a sudden heart attack. In 2011 I lost my mission aviation friend, Paul Westlund in a crash. There was no explanation for any of these losses that made any sense to me. And now, this week, we all grieve the sudden loss of Hank Bruining, a pillar of FCC.

What is God’s answer to that? Where is God when that kind of stuff happens to us? Philosophers offer two basic answers: Either there is no all powerful all loving God. Or there is an all powerful God but he just doesn’t care.

But the Bible offers a third alternative. We hear it in one of the most important, yet overlooked things Jesus ever said, one of the last things he said before he died. Theologians call it “the cry of dereliction,” something Jesus wailed aloud from the cross: “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me!?” (Matthew 27:46).

This is God’s answer to our suffering. He is not ‘up there’, distant, aloof, impassive while we suffer. He is ‘down here’ suffering with us. He has taken every single pain, every ounce of tragedy, every shred of injustice, each moment of mindless terror, “rolled it into a ball and eaten it, tasted it, fully digested it, eternally.” God is in Christ, suffering with and reconciling the world to him self. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

Where is God when we suffer? Suffering with us.

The Cross is the most stunning proof that God cares about our pain. It is the universal image of Christianity. But we are so familiar with it that we forget how violent, how brutal it was. The Cross is one of the vilest, tormenting, and barbaric forms of cruelty and death the world has ever known. Our word ‘excruciating’ comes from the Latin for crucifixion. Yet we wear it around the neck like a trophy. “Modern day executions are quick and sterile things. This one stretched on for hours in front of a jeering crowd.” In his death Jesus, God in the flesh, fully identified with our suffering and humility in the face of death. He didn’t have to do that. He chose it. He chose full identification with suffering humanity.

When tragedy strikes the promises of God often seem empty. Words on a page, or even from a friend, can’t fill the breach in our souls. Surely the words of Jesus to his friends must have seemed like empty promises as he hung there and died. They hung back in the crowd and slowly dispersed. It was after all, an empty hope they had clung to.

But that was Friday. Easter Sunday was yet to come. When it came, the world, suffering, life and death itself was turned on its head. The Cross tells us that God fully identifies with all the suffering of the world. The resurrection tells us that one day he will turn suffering on its head.

This has had a profound effect on me. God, our heavenly father, is not holding us at arm’s length. He is not a careless cosmic thug. He is embracing us. He is beside us holding us up. He is weeping with us. He knows the emptiness of our grief the hollowness in our souls. He knows these things and shares these things with the whole world of suffering. On the cross he absorbed it and through us he absorbs it still.

This knowledge restored my hope in God. It did something else too. It renewed my understanding of the uniqueness of Christianity. If you take the Cross out of the center of Christianity you remove that which makes it peerless among religions. It becomes just another system of morals and principles. But if you embrace the Cross you find a God there who is unlike any other, a God who will go to unimaginable lengths to commune with his creatures. He will commune with us to the death on Friday so that we can conquer death with him on Sunday.